Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

What If Your Parachute Didn’t Open?

I’ve been flying in a lot of planes and I’m one of those people who still listen to the safety announcements, simply as a precaution.  I don’t believe that the odds are good that I’ll survive in the chance of a crash, but the idea of a parachute is a great idea.  I also have a lot of friends who skydive and I always wonder, even though they do it in tandem, what if your parachute didn’t open.

In the airplane, the flight attendant on my most recent flight was discussing the life jackets.  He said, “To inflate the jackets pull on the tab, if that doesn’t inflate the jacket blow into the red tube, if that doesn’t work…pray”.  Why am I asking you about your parachute?  If you’re not skydiving then I guess I’m really asking you if you have any contingency plans.

What would you need a contingency plan for?  It’s like when you make escape routes out of your house in case of fire, if you only have one way out you’re going to be in trouble.  The same is true for any of when we face any sort of crisis.  If we only have one solution that we use for everything then we’re taking a huge chance that we’ll crash and burn (physically, emotionally, and spiritually).

Technology has helped when it comes to contingency plans.  Having a cell phone with speed dial numbers can save you time and trouble in case of an emergency.  Having the phone number of a neighbor who can help you if you get stuck, giving someone the key to your home in case someone needs to get in and check on you; these are all contingency plans.

I could go on and on about why and what contingency plans you may need, but it’s better if you sit down with those in your household and come up with a list and then come up with solutions.  I believe you’ll sleep better at night knowing you’ve got things covered in all directions.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Should we be striving for Familiarity?

They used to say that we’re all strangers in a strange land.  The question is how long do we act as strangers and shouldn’t we be looking or hoping to become familiar with our surroundings?  It seems to me that when we are familiar with people, surroundings, or situations we’re more at ease and that promotes health and healing.

How does this apply to you following your diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness?  The truth is that you’ll begin to have regularly scheduled appointments in many places.  You’ll go to the doctor, the lab, and possibly another location for treatment.  How well do you know those who work in those locations?

We know that they know you, at least as a number on a file, but wouldn’t it be nice to become familiar with those who know intimate details about your life?  Personally, I try to get to know a couple of people in any doctor’s office, the receptionist, the nurse, and the medical assistant.  Many doctor’s are very busy and although we’d like direct access, your best bet may be familiarity with these other key employees.

I’m not saying you need to know their bank account numbers or blood type, but it doesn’t hurt to ask how their day is going or what they did over the weekend.  If you’re going to be a regular that may develop over time unless you simply check in and go sit in the corner trying to be anonymous.  It does take putting yourself out there a bit, but it’s worth the small investment of your energy.

The truth is that if they know you as more than a chart number, you’ll get calls returned faster, questions answers until you’ve exhausted every possible scenario, and you’ll get tips and secrets that will aid you in health and healing (especially about how to deal with side-effects).

Take it from me; I had to learn the hard way, but once I discovered the secret of familiarity my visits have been a cake walk and much more enjoyable.  It’s almost a social occasion (until I get in the exam room).  Try it out and let me know how it works for you!!!

Posted in Caregiving

We All Have Things To Learn

Welcome to Caregiver Friday!!

It’s amazing the learning curve you experience when the person you love is diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness.  There are the obvious things like learning new ways of communicating with medical professionals, scheduling your day and all the appointments, and finding ways to lend a compassionate heart to the person you love.

Perhaps you had to learn things like new ways to cook or even CPR to ensure the health and welfare of your loved one.  It’s amazing to think that once the diagnosis hits an entire world of new things opens up to you.  What will this mean for you?  Later down the road you’ll have the tools you’ve learned to share with others who are beginning this journey.  You may be asking, “But what about me?”  I’m in full agreement, you shouldn’t have to learn everything on your own, so I hope you’ll find a support group.

Support groups are great because they are often solution oriented.  If you wind up in a support group that is a gripe session run as far and as fast as possible or you’ll want to through yourself off a cliff by the end of the meeting.  Being with others who have found ways to cope are the people who will be your greatest assets.  They will educate you, inspire you, and comfort you through this process.   They will say, “I know how you feel” and actually mean it.  They can tell you where the bumps in the road are so even if you can’t avoid them, you can prepare for them.

These things you have to learn can be very concrete or they can be part of your inner journey.  The things you may need to learn on the personal level is taking time for yourself.  Understanding that if you’re not fed, you can’t feed anyone (I mean that literally and figuratively”.  Pay attention to the things you love to do and make a point of doing them.  If you’re a gardner then garden.  If you’re a painter…paint.  If you love to read, carve out time on the schedule and write it on the calendar as an appointment and read.

I know it’s a lot to take in all at once, but know you’re not alone and there are lots of resources out there for you.  You can get the free e-course, The Courageous Caregiver at

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Where Does Wellness Reside?

I think about health and healing constantly.  I’m always reading, listening, and contemplating how those of us diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness can invoke wellness.  I’m not thinking about invoking it like an incantation, but bringing it consciously into our lives so that we can activate all the positive energy we need to overcome any and all health challenges.

So where does wellness reside?  Is it something we find in a bottle or a book?  Is wellness in a meditation or supplement?  I guess it can reside in all those places, but overwhelmingly I keep coming back to the fact that wellness resides within each of us.  I remember when I worked at The Wellness Community and the doctors who supported the organization discussing how our cells have a memory of wellness.  If our cells have the memory of wellness then doesn’t that mean that wellness resides within?

As I sit here typing these words I think about that old movie, Fantastic Voyage (1966), where a submarine with scientists is injected into the bloodstream of a person.  I know this is far-fetched, but what if we could do it without the submarine; would that make a difference for you?  Well that’s what I’m thinking is possible and why wellness resides within!

If we’re brave enough and persevere, I believe that we can find those hidden pockets of wellness that lie deep in our bodies.  When we activate these pockets of wellness we can bring wellness into the light and aid us in achieving new levels of peace-of-mind.  It’s interesting because when we make the conscious decision to go within instead of finding a book, pill, or guru to aid in health and healing we access infinite resources.  When we access the depths of the well, we’re able to bring forth body, mind, and spirit to unite and take on any and all health challenges.

I hope you find where wellness resides within you?

Posted in art and healing, creativity and health

It all starts with a single step

Welcome to Art and Healing Wednesday!!

I’m always amazed at how impactful art can be in every aspect of our lives.  Last week I was watching my summer indulgence, “So You Think You Can Dance”, when they introduced a contemporary piece to be performed by two contestants.  The choreographer, Travis Wall, had been a contestant in the competition in season 2 so he knows the ropes.  Last year he began choreographing for the show bringing a fresh new perspective to contemporary dance.

The piece he choreographed was about his mother who had undergone some major surgery.  It depicted her struggle and the support she received from others throughout the process.  One of the two dancers performing the piece was able to identify strongly with the piece since his mother had breast cancer and had not only undergone surgery, but chemotherapy and radiation.  Before the dancers danced, the choreographer shared his perspective on the piece and that’s where the piece took on a life of its own.  Travis Wall stated, “Every step is a storytelling experience.”

When I heard him utter those words I was awakened to the possibilities that dance provides for self-expression.  I was also impressed at how he was able to share his story and how it resonated with so many in the studio audience and the viewers at home.  He was able to model how powerful our stories are and emphasized that there are a multitude of ways to share that story; his is through dance.

We’re all creative beings; it’s just that some of us have easier access to that creativity because we nurture it and use it.  The goal following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness is to access the resources that already exist within you.  We’re all not going to be professional dancers, but most of us can move; even if it’s only tapping our foot.  If we have mobility in our hands we can write words that express our deepest thoughts and share both our struggles and our triumphs.  If we have speech then we can hum or sing a tune that resonates with our soul.  I always recommend that clients find a theme song that punctuates their story.  In fact, have a few so that as things change you always have a song to sing.

Travis Wall gave us the gift of his talent and his heart.  He was able to capture a part of his story and interpret it in a way that could be shared with all of us.  Even if you feel you can’t create, you can certainly enjoy, connect, and experience others’ stories by  being an observer/participant.  I hope you find the single step that will tell your story.

Posted in Having a Voice in Healthcare, Partnerships

Doctors Providing Hope

Every so often I come across a story the renews my faith in human nature.  It brings me peace-of-mind to know that there are still medical professionals out there willing to help someone without trying to make a buck.  ABC World News with Diane Sawyer featured Dr. Andy Moore and the medical professionals at “Surgery on Sunday” as their person(s) of the week.

“Surgery on Sunday” is in Lexington, KY where the team of medical professionals offers their surgical services once a month for those who need surgery but are uninsured.  The staff providing the services couldn’t be more humble about this magnanimous service they provide to the Lexington community.  One doctor interviewed said that the “thank you” he receives from a patient he performed surgery on is uplifting and fills his soul to the brim.

The medical professionals at “Surgery on Sunday” feel honored to provide this service to the community.  It’s actions like this that prove that a community based approach to healthcare is not only possible, but works well.  It provides a safety-net for those who are not eligible for state or federal programs like Medicare of Medicaid, thus relieving the stress to those individual in need of surgery.

A program like “Surgery on Sunday” is replicable.  It isn’t rocket science; it takes medical professionals volunteering once a month and a surgical location to make it possible.  We all have to remember that there are many ways of being paid, and one is gratitude.  A program like this not only helps those who need surgery, but extends hope to potentially millions across the country who may someday benefit from the model created by these heart-driven medical professionals.

I hope that you will send all those affiliated with “Surgery on Sunday” your best wishes and congratulations on their triumphant success.  I hope you’ll refer your medical professionals (if you have one) to the website, to show your medical team what can be accomplished to serve your own community.  Last but not least, please hold hope in your heart for what’s possible when inventive, caring people put their body, minds, and spirit to work to create something that fills a huge gap in our current healthcare system.

Posted in art and healing, creativity and health

Who Are Your Muses?

Welcome to Art and Healing Wednesday!!

Inspiration is an incredible thing to experience because it opens us up to ever-expanding possibility.  The Ancient Greeks depended on the Nine Muses as their source of inspiration.  I had the enormous pleasure and honor to study with Angeles Arrien the author of, The Nine Muses.  The book is a great reference book for understanding the power of the muses, and how they can be brought into your life at any time and for any purpose.

I could go on and on about the use of art as a healing practice, but I really want to focus on you and what inspires you.  It’s great for me to share my passions, but that doesn’t mean it will be yours and for the muses to aid you in health and healing, the passions need to be yours, something personal.  The muses in Ancient Greek had specific art forms they were responsible for such as dance, writing, song, music, etc.  Each muse could be invoked when needed and this provided comfort and a foundation for the creation of all things beautiful.

When diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness many believe all creativity and inspiration are thrown out the window.  They experience life as a chore and lose the beauty in everything around them.  This is a time to pick up your creativity and utilize it not only for strategies to promote wellness, but to use your voice (figuratively and literally) to promote health and encourage the body to remember times of wellness.

I encourage you to keep a book of inspiration.  I like to start with quotes because they capture the essence of a thought in something memorable.  Once I have the ideas I begin to think about shapes and colors that I find appealing or catch my attention in the moment.  I also focus on shapes because they themselves have meaning.  I like to use circles because they represent wholeness and they make me thing of bubbles and bubbles are fun.  My art is meaningful and playful.  It allows me to tell my story about my life experience.

My muses are music and the great outdoors, at least during the warm weather.  I find myself spending a lot of time at the Botanic Garden because it represent beauty, complexity and simplicity, and of course possibility.  I feel educated and inspired.  Last but not least, I find the garden to be a place of refuge because there are plenty of places  to sit and reflect.  I always bring my camera so I can capture the moments I want to use as a reference, the muse.

What inspires you?  Which of the muses might you invoke to help you capitalize on your inner potential of wellness?  I’d love to see your creations and so would the rest of the world.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Nature Calls

Many ancient traditions respect nature.  Since the Industrial Revolution we’ve become a society more devoted to progress no matter the cost to our minds and souls.  What is it about nature that rejuvenates the spirit and offers solace in our heart?

Nature has been around longer than any other living energy on the planet.  It is through nature that many inventors have created things we’ve come to rely on and couldn’t live without.  Leonardo da Vinci created the parachute by watching birds is just one example of nature inspired inventions.  There are many lessons to learn from nature and following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness you may feel the need to revert back to those simple and inspiring lessons.

The one things that comes to mind is the seasons.  We know that there are times of growth and times of rest.  There are times throughout the year when rejuvenation is primary like when bears hibernate through the winter.  We know that if we prune back trees and shrubs they grow back fuller and by getting rid of the dead branches the water and nutrients can be directed toward that which is alive and growing.

These are important lessons to learn because if this is how nature stays in balance, don’t you think this is how your body will stay in balance?  How much rest are you getting?  What do you do when you’re tired?  Do you keep running on empty or try to fool your body by feeding it Red Bull?  The only thing that achieves rest and rejuvenation is sleep; there are no substitutes.

What are you feeding your body?  Are you eating nutritious meals or do you believe the body should be able to create proper nutrients from a banana cream pie?  Processed foods wreak havoc on the body and following your diagnosis you should be giving your body every opportunity to replenish your cells with nutrients that will fortify your goal of health and healing.

Nature is right outside your door and there are plenty of lessons to learn if you take the time to observe what’s in front of you.  Yes, spending time in nature is restorative, but you can learn the lessons just as easily by watching how hard the ant on your patio is working or the perseverance of the bees in your garden.  Don’t take the obvious for granted because your life and your wellness depend on it!

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Life is a Moving Target

I want to thank all the advertising executives for their quick wit and easy to remember slogans because they often capture real life experience.  I caught a Target commercial and their tag line is, “Life is a moving target”.  Following a diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness don’t you feel that way?  It’s as if you’ve been moving all your life and the sight caught you in its scope, fired, and you got hit.

What if we were to change the interpretation of the tag line and look at how it relates to your life post-diagnosis?  What is it about your life that would be like a moving target?  I’m sure for many of you the lab tech who can’t find a vein may make you feel that way, or being at the crappy end of a drug’s side-effect might cause that particular reaction.

So let’s shift the idea from what’s happening to you, to what you want to bring into your life.  It’s kind of like those games at the carnival where if you’re successful you get a plush toy as your reward.  What’s your reward for hitting a moving target?  Have you identified the moving target?

Maybe the moving target is the host of complementary therapies available and you finally hit upon one that has particular impact on your physical health.  Another way that you can play in this hit-or-miss scenario is to find inspiration in a book.  We all know that every book won’t hit the mark, but when you find one that does I bet you read it time and time again.

There are lots of other ways to engage the moving target story in your life and it falls across all arenas, physical, emotional, and spiritual.  There are a multitude of opportunities open to you so that you don’t have to be the target, but you are the one who has things cross your path. 

It’s these times when developing the capacity to shift how you perceive things will give you peace-of-mind.  It will help motivate you to take control over what’s possible and avoid the traps of negative emotions and negative energy.

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

If Cher Said It, It Must Be True

I’m always surprised when a famous person gets connected to a news story that I didn’t think connected.  I was watching ABC World News with Diane Sawyer and the “Person of the Week” was a mountain climber who was an amputee.  He didn’t have the money to climb to the summit of the mountain, but the money appeared.  The money came through Cher, or one of the organizations under the umbrella of her life.  She provides funding for cases just like this; someone with a tremendous challenge who doesn’t have the means to take this huge leap toward overcoming some very difficult challenge.

What surprised me even more was when they showed a short interview with Cher to explain why she provided the funding.  She said, “Going to the top of the mountain is important.  Going to the top of your fear mountain is more important.”  That’s an incredible philosophy and truthfully I was surprised at how profound Cher came across; she embodied the Buddha in that moment. 

How does this apply to your life?  Following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness the “fear mountain” is often huge.  The unknown is the catalyst for that fear and if not curbed it can become bigger and bigger over time.  It’s not like the “fear factor” is going to subside on its own; it needs to be subdued like bull at the rodeo.  It needs to be overtaken and put in its place; that can be a daunting task, but it has to be done.

 The next step is to identify what it is you’re afraid of, aside from the obvious.  Everyone has death anxiety at least according to Irvin Yalom, as stated in his brilliant book, Staring At the Sun, so let’s take that out of the running.  Personally I can tell you that my biggest fear is about pain and suffering.  Having done this work for so many years and encountered death as much as I have the idea of “not being” isn’t terrifying.  I’ve identified my fear so my next step is to figure out how I’m going to decrease any and all opportunities for pain and suffering to show its ugly head.

In order to conquer my fear I need to be go into my resource list and identify those things that will help prevent or reduce what I’m afraid of so I maintain a certain level of control over my own life.  It may mean insuring I get enough rest or exercise.  I may make a point of spending more time in my art studio because when I’m in “the zone” my body is ultimately engaged in something pleasurable preventing the other stuff from creeping in to my life.  All of these became punctuated after reading Norman Cousins, Anatomy of an Illness, where Cousins used laughter to offset his severe bouts with pain.

Cher is right; you have to make it to the summit of your “fear mountain”, plant your flag at the top, and know that you have the capacity to stand tall and make informed decisions about your life!